518 Bailey Rd.
Crystal City, Mo.
For several years I've extolled the virtues of Gordon's Stoplight Diner. A small, simple, old fashioned, no frills burger joint. For the last few months, the owners of that perfect little burger diner have decided to branch out. I was quite excited to hear about the new Gordon's Cheese Steaks.
I've been to Philadelphia though and had a cheese steak sandwich, so I knew what one ought to taste like. Would they be up to that challenge?
It finally opened, we gave it a few days. I did notice that once or twice they posted that they were sold out for the day and were closing early. I told Angel about that and she merely responded "I could handle a good sandwich for lunch."
So I mapped out a task list for Saturday morning. First I'd stop at the Hillsboro Post Office to drop off five books I'd sold on line that week. This was an unusually high amount of sales, I can go a month or two and not sell any of the nearly five hundred books I have for sale on Half.com.
After that I would go in for my semi-regular oil change. I like the convenience of pulling into an oil change place and having three guys running around my car checking things and topping off fluids. I don't care for the inevitable up-selling, radiator flush, transmission fluid exchange, new battery or wipers, etc. This time though I did accept the offer of an overpriced air filter. He showed it to me and I could see it was more dirt and grime than actual filter. Sure, I could easily go to Wally-World and get a cheaper one and replace it myself, but that's exactly what I'd said I was going to do the last two or three oil changes, but didn't.
After this, I finally headed to Bailey Road, arriving around 11:30. (they open at 11 on Saturdays).
It was chilly, gray and snowing thick, wet, but non-threatening flakes.
This little shed of a place has been a walk up food joint, off and on, for as long as I remember. Maybe pizza and something else, I don't recall exactly what and when.
There is no dining area. You don't even go indoors, a good, ol' fashioned walk-up. There was an awning or canopy in the front and on this occasion, about five or six people in line.
Everything is made to order, so every order takes a little time to assemble. I got in line and waited. At my turn I told the charming red headed young lady at the counter that I just wanted two 'Originals', nothing else.
I'd originally planned to get more than that, they boast a pretty good sounding 'Coney' for example. But a hand written sign cut me short. 'Cash only'. This severely limited my options. At the post office earlier I'd asked, for no particular reason for $20 cash back. This gave me a grand total of about $23 in my billfold. I had also seen the overhead menu that stated that the 'Originals' were $7.99 each. I am quite capable of doing broad math calculations in my head and decided to keep it simple this trip. Keep to the basics. This should be their flagship sandwich.
I took the pager back to my car and browsed the internet and social media on my somewhat new 4G smartphone. That 's always a time killer. I had a book in the car as well. Actually there are five or six books in my car most of the time. I'm a reader.
So I whiled away the time. I watched as the five or six people doing the prep inside worked furiously to fill orders. The wait was noticeable, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes, but I hoped the wait and the higher than fast food prices were worth it.
The pager finally went off. There was a wait at the line, the young lady was explaining to the guy that there was some confusion with the orders and that it would be a few more minutes.
I didn't get too frustrated by that. A place that has only been open a couple of weeks and one that was proving quite busy is going to need some time to get the efficiencies and processes figured out. So I waited a few more minutes until they acknowledged that they'd sorted it out and she handed me a plain white bag.
I left and sped home, by then, pretty hungry.
We unrolled our sandwiches threw some chips on a paper plate and dug in. We had each cut ours in half, we just can't eat a big sandwich in one sitting.
It was indeed good. There was not too much bread, the meat was cooked perfectly, juicy with smooth, creamy cheese (product) mixed in in a near perfect proportion. We both enjoyed our half sandwiches thoroughly.
Long time fans will recall that I do not judge the service at newly opened eateries too harshly. As I pointed out, these things take some time to build a flow, so I'll not say anything much about the wait, or the confusion with the orders, etc. These owners have had a successful diner running for decades. They'll figure it out.
I will point out a little thing that could be addressed soon, to cut overhead. There were enough napkins in the bag I was given to mop up an oil spill. Sure the sandwiches are juicy and cheese melty, but they're not that messy.
As for the sandwich itself, yes it was good. Angel commented that next time she might want a milder cheese since there was so much of it, the artificial cheddary Cheez-Whiz taste was a bit over-powering. They offer provolone, that should do the trick.
You can get sandwiches a lot of places for less than eight bucks. You can even get a bigger sandwich for less than eight bucks. But those sandwiches are franchise burgers or too heavily breaded subs. This was a real sandwich. Not too thick, not too greasy. It was fresh and authentic. So yes, in my mind Gordon's Cheese Steaks are better than a fast food burger or a Subway club. But nearly twice the price? I don't know. I did like it and I want it again. I also want to try out the dogs and slaw and fries and chili. . . so there is no question, we will go back. I can also highly recommend the place. They've taken the Stoplight's philosophy of simplicity and applied it well to the new menu. Just remember to bring a book and a fist full of cash. This place has been doing quite well in the first few days of operation, I certainly hope it continues to do well.
But was it as good as the one I tried in Philly? I don't know. That was like fifteen years ago and I recall not being all that overly impressed. Yes, the real Philly philly was good, but perhaps over-hyped. The one I had here was easily as good, as best I can recall.